A green and beautiful lawn relies on many important factors. Chief among them is making sure that your grass has all the nutrients it needs to support vigorous growth all throughout the summer.
One of the best ways to handle this is to apply fertilizer. Most lawn fertilizers come in either a liquid or granular form.
Now you might wondering what's the difference between liquid weed and feed vs granular? and Which is Better on Lawns?
So, the simple answer is the one that is right for your lawn will depend on the season and the overall health of your lawn.
Your grass is actually just the uppermost layer of the complex turf that makes up your lawn.
The health of the underlying turf and the available nutrients can be affected by a variety of different factors, including seasonal changes as well as mowing frequency.
Do I Need To Fertilize My Lawn?
Grass needs more than just the simple nutrients provided by decomposing thatch.
As time goes on even the healthiest soil will gradually be depleted of key nutrients to a degree that properly integrated thatch simply cannot supply.
Other key nutrients grass needs include:
- Potassium which is also known as soluble potash
There are various types of fertilizer available at most hardware and garden centers. It can help to know the nutrient profile of your thatch and subsoil, to find the one that is right for your lawn.
There are very affordable soil test kits that can tell you what your lawn is lacking. This information will help you select the type of fertilizer you need.
Which Is Better For My Lawn Liquid Fertilizer vs Granular?
There is some debate between liquid and granular lawn fertilizers. Each has its own pros and cons. Liquid fertilizer tends to cost a little more, and you may not be able to source it yourself.
Some lawn care companies will offer a liquid fertilizing service with formulations that are tailored to the season as well as different soil nutrient needs.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Liquid Lawn Fertilizer?
Liquid fertilizer is more popular for dealing with active turf problems that occur early or during the growing season.
It tends to be absorbed quickly, especially if performed shortly after spring aeration. The nutrients quickly feed the roots to bring a lawn back to life.
Unfortunately, liquid lawn fertilizers also tend to be short-lived. Within a week or two they will have given up their nutrient boost.
If your turf has a significant nutrient deficiency, you might notice the vibrant green effect starting to diminish.
This process can be accelerated by excess rainfall, which essentially washes the nutrients down into the subsoil, where the roots of the grass can’t readily access it.
If you have leftover liquid fertilizer, you can save it for a later application. Just keep in mind that it has a knack for separating.
So, make sure to vigorously shake it up to remix before application.
Liquid lawn fertilizers that are sprayed by professional services may last longer than store-bought brands. However, they will still have a finite lifespan.
Many professional lawn care companies typically charge subscription fees for multiple applications during the growing season.
How Do I Apply Liquid Lawn Fertilizer?
Some liquid lawn fertilizer brands sell units that simply attach to a standard garden hose. They are designed to mix just the right concentration with water.
While this is a very convenient option, it also means your fertilizing is limited to the length of your garden hose. If you have a very large lawn, you might not be able to reach all of it with your hose.
A standard garden sprayer can also be used to apply liquid lawn fertilizer. However, it requires you to do some measuring to get the ratio of water to fertilizer correct.
If you miscalculate, you could end up over-fertilizing or under-fertilizing your lawn, which carries other consequences.
What Are The Pros and Cons Of Granular Fertilizer?
Granular fertilizer is typically more cost-effective both upfront and in the long-term.
The grains are specially formulated to breakdown gradually over time. This more effectively saturates the layers of the turf.
However, there isn’t a lot of initial effects. Indeed, you might put down granular fertilizer in the middle of the growing season and see very little appreciable change.
At the same time, there is such a thing as too much granular fertilizer. Most brands are high in nitrogen, which is a key nutrient that promotes plant growth.
However, too much nitrogen at one time can essentially “Burn Out” a plant, as well as alter the microbial soil chemistry.
Spending the extra money on a quality spreader will improve your chances of spreading granular fertilizer consistently on your lawn.
Chances are you will probably have some leftover. Just make sure to store it away safely where pets and children can’t accidentally get into it.
When Should I Fertilize My Lawn?
Ideally, you want to spread lawn fertilizer when the roots of the grass are just coming out of or going into dormancy.
This makes early spring and early fall prime times for spreading granular fertilizer to ensure that the grass has what it needs to survive the winter as well as bounce back to life again next year.
Aerating your lawn and making sure that all leaves or other debris have been cleared away will also help maximize the results.
This essentially lets the granular fertilizer soak into the turf and root mass, rather than laying on the surface blocked out by thatch.
When it comes to liquid fertilizer, spring and fall are also very viable times. Many professional lawn care services will offer liquid fertilizers that have been specially formulated for what grass needs at that time of year.
Liquid fertilizer also tends to be more effective for dealing with lawn problems during the growing season.
Dead spots caused by winter snow mold, pet urine, lawn disease, and random bare patches that are reseeded can all benefit from mid-season liquid fertilizer.
Are Their Organic Lawn Fertilizers Available?
Just like their more chemical cousins, there are organic lawn fertilizers sold in most hardware stores and garden centers.
There are admittedly more granular options than liquid, and you should expect to pay more. There is some argument about their effectiveness compared to commercial brands.
Still, if you have kids and pets running around your lawn, it is nice to know there are some organic options available.
When Is My Lawn Safe For Kids And Pets After Fertilizing?
Some brands have their own recommendations on how long you should wait after fertilizing to let kids and pets play on the lawn.
A good rule of thumb is to give it a solid 48 hours for the fertilizer to fully be absorbed or integrated.
It’s the sort of thing you might want to do on a Friday right before leaving for a little weekend getaway.
If a child or a dog does get to the lawn inside of that 48-hour window, you should follow the safety instructions on the package.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.